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Local Flavour By Joanna Mannington - Food and nutrition teacher at Mercury Bay Area School

By Joanna Mannington - Food and nutrition teacher at Mercury Bay Area School

I have all sorts of fresh, new growth in my garden at the moment, including a selection of herbs, lots of leafy, nutritious greens, rhubarb and my friends have been off loading their grapefruit onto me as they know all my family love it. All of this bounty is free and bursting with health-giving antioxidant vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, fibre and water. They are also low in energy, so perfect for a spring clean of the winter body.

Wins on all levels

Fresh ideas for fresh greens. Freshen up your diet with a healthy dose of the last of the citrus and the first flush of greens. Silverbeet, Asian greens, parsley and coriander, hardier salads like rocket and mizuna are a good source of iron, vitamins K, A and C and calcium. They are full of antioxidants and the vitamins within it help to prevent inflammation. Silverbeet contains potassium, which helps to maintain blood sugar levels plus a high fibre content which is beneficial in reducing blood cholesterol. I worked for a family in France who started every meal with a large bowl of this seasonal, green leafy salad.

· A good dressing makes a salad delicious. The oil helps the absorption of the nutrients in the leaves. Use a good quality oil. (See Nosh without Doshin the Informer last week). A cheap, heat processed oil will taste exactly like that! In a large salad bowl, measure one tablespoon of olive/avocado or cold pressed sunflower oil per person. Squeeze in the same quantity of citrus juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little complimentary flavour like garlic, ginger, miso, mustard, soy, honey or horseradish etc. Whisk together and just before serving, toss in a couple of handfuls of washed and coarsely chopped selected greens including their flowers. Sprinkle with seeds and nuts or a little cheese and enjoy.

· A good herb sauce makes a quick pasta dish. Blend together 1 – 2 cloves of garlic with ½ cup nuts/seeds. Use cheaper sunflower seeds if your budget is constrained. Add in 2 - 4 cups of herbs - parsley, coriander, rocket, mint etc. and ½ cup grated tasty cheese. Use parmesan if you can afford it. Thin with enough oil to form a pesto like paste. Season with salt and pepper and balance with a little acid - red or white wine vinegar or citrus. Stir through hot, drained pasta or smear onto a toastie or crackers. Dip crunchy radish and carrots into a small bowl of this.

· A good green juice - Wash and freeze whole kale or cavalo nero leaves in zip locks or containers and add one to the blender for you post workout or morning juice/blend.

· A good green soup - Gently fry one diced onion in a large pot until soft. Add a pinch of chilli flakes, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and two diced potatoes. Season and add one litre of chicken stock. Cook until the potatoes are tender and beginning to break down. Add 1 x 380 can of cannelloni beans and 4 handfuls of washed and chopped greens. Bring to the boil to wilt leaves and heat beans, then season. Smear toasted ciabatta with butter mixed with garlic and parsley and place in the bottom of each individuals bowl. Ladle hot soup over the garlic bread and grate a little parmesan cheese over the lot.

· Stir chopped silver beet through a good risotto, dhal, or omelette.

· Creamed silverbeet - Gently fry one diced onion in a large pan until soft. Add a pinch of chilli flakes, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and 4 – 8 handfuls of washed and chopped greens. Let them wilt and then stir though ½ cup of cream - regular or dairy, and cook until the liquid has reduced to a sauce. Season and serve as an accompaniment or make a pie with the pastry below - Silverbeet pie and feta and cheese pastry.

· A good, quick pastry for creamed greens - Measure 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking powder into a large bowl. Add ½ teaspoon salt. In a jug, measure out 1/3 cup of oil and top up with 2/3 cup of water. Add the 1 cup of liquid to the dry ingredients and using your hands, mix the dough together until it forms a smooth ball. Roll dough out onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Pour the cooled creamed silverbeet mixture onto the pastry and fold over the sides to form a crust to contain the filling. Brush to crust with beaten egg wash if you wish and top with crumbled feta or grated cheese. Bake in a hot oven until golden.

Caldo Verde - Ingredients

· 330g cooked cannellini beans

· 4 tbsp olive oil

· 1 medium onion

· 2 cloves garlic

· 1 small red chilli, chopped

· 4 large potatoes

· 1 litre chicken stock

· 500g green leaves

· Slices of ciabatta bread

· Olive oil

· Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: Drain the beans and rinse under cold running water. Heat the oil in a frying pan, peel and slice the onion and cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chilli. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1cm chunks and stir into the frying pan. Season lightly and pour in the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Lightly mash the potatoes into the broth with a fork to help thicken the stock. While the potatoes cook bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Remove any stalks from the greens and finely shred the leaves into strips about 1cm wide. Blanch in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then quickly drain and squeeze out any excess liquid. Add the greens to the broth along with the drained beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Check for salt and pepper. While the Caldo Verde is cooking, lightly toast the ciabatta. Generously pour olive oil over the toast, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and place in the bottom of 4 deep serving bowls. Ladle the broth over the top and eat immediately.

· Lettuce rolls filled with carrot, beetroot and citrus

· Rhubarb - baked with orange juice

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